the jazz authority; random dubiously zappy rants about 'the musicians music'.: Reflections on the Relationship Between Jazz and Classical Music

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Reflections on the Relationship Between Jazz and Classical Music

(This is a copy of a term paper I wrote this fall...)

Topic: The influence of classical music and early African American folk music on the development of jazz in the 1950s and 1960s.

Two jazz genres – third stream jazz and hard bop – grew simultaneously in opposite directions during the late 1950s and early 1960s. The post-bebop jazz style called symphonic jazz or alternately “Third Stream” jazz is an example of acculturation, significantly influenced by classical music. Conversely, a new subgenre of bebop called hard bop used the more traditional folk elements of gospel and blues music. Each of these genres was of tremendous importance to the development of jazz.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s bebop evolved in two main directions, with many subgenres. One path – cool jazz and then third stream - involved the increasing influence of Western European art music (classical). The other – hard bop - was a response to this process, with increasingly present early African American folk, gospel and blues influences. In the decades prior to these events, popular music had moved away from the big band jazz of the 1930s and ‘40s. Musicians had become bored and created a kind of jazz called bebop. Several jazz movements followed swiftly in the wake of bop and revivalism. In quick succession came cool jazz, hard bop, West Coast jazz and Third stream jazz. At this time – the late 1940s – the beginnings of free jazz were also first heard. Each genre did not displace or eliminate the preceding ones. Throughout jazz history, new styles run alongside their predecessors, so that today one can hear a wide variety of jazz types, all coexisting.

We can, to a limited degree, observe the influence of jazz on Western classical music. European composers began to encounter ragtime related styles around the turn of the century, usually through published sheet music, and soon started to write pieces that made reference to its syncopated rhythmic patterns. In the early 1900s classical composers began to hear jazz on record and in performance, and many were inspired to compose music that incorporated elements of jazz. Among the most successful of these efforts were Copeland’s Music for the Theatre (1925) and Piano Concerto, and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Suites for Jazz Orchestra (1934). The direct influence of jazz on classical music proved to be a passing phase of modernism, and was already fading by the 1930s.

Third stream jazz was and is significantly influenced by classical music, and so could be said to be an example of the acculturation of jazz by Western musical influences. This was not the first instance of jazz being assimilated or significantly affected by Western European classical music. The earlier efforts to “Westernize” jazz by Paul Whiteman were among the most important to the development and popularity of jazz in the early 20th century. Paul Whiteman, a formally trained musician from Colorado, first heard jazz being played by New Orleans musicians in San Francisco in 1915. In 1924 Whiteman brought his version of jazz – so-called “symphonic jazz” - to the concert stage for the first time, performing at the Manhattan’s acclaimed Aeolian Hall. In the time between, Whiteman set his sights on the orchestration of jazz, attempting to retain its rhythm and harmony while making it as precise and predictable as symphonic music. He worked hard to promote his band, and his 1920 his recording of “Whispering” would sell over 2.5 million copies. While sometimes criticised for “diluting” jazz, and often resented by black musicians for his fame and riches gained playing music they had pioneered, Whiteman was unpretentious about his achievements, and regularly gave work to black arrangers. He was clear about the artistic debt be owed to black musicians, as the first paragraph of his autobiography makes clear: “Jazz came to America three hundred years ago in chains…destined…to set a nation dancing…. Jazz…was to be their gift to posterity.”

In 1924 George Gershwin, a classically trained pianist and popular songwriter who was familiar with jazz, composed Rhapsody in Blue, a concerted work for piano and the twenty-three piece “jazz band” of Paul Whiteman, then the most influential large dance band in America. The piece was scored by Ferde Grofe, Whiteman’s pianist and chief orchestrator, who also had extensive classical training. Examples of jazz versions of classical compositions that were popular in the ‘30s and ‘40s include Tommy Dorsey’s “Song of India (after Rimsky-Korsakov, 1937), Art Tatum’s “Humoresque” (after Dvorak, 1940) and King Cole Trio’s “Prelude in C Sharp Minor” (after Rachmaninoff, 1944). These attempts at jazz arrangements of classical compositions can be said to have trivialized the original material on which they were based, and may also reflect the desire of class-conscious jazz musicians to prove their “legitimacy” at a time when jazz was not regarded as art music. Gil Evans is the only arranger of the period who consistently succeeded in creatively “recomposing” classical music. Gil Evans is a good example of a third stream musician, as his compositions regularly featured orchestral instruments, highly arranged sections and song forms borrowed from classical music. He was also instrumental in the creation of Cool jazz, a direct precursor to third stream jazz. On the other hand, some jazz composers, such as Dave Brubeck, wrote pieces specifically for classical musicians to perform. These attempts were considered by many to be failures, largely because they failed to attract a large audience. This may reflect a practical problem of stylistic integration which is common to third stream music: most classical musicians unable to improvise and they find it difficult to produce in performance the unwritten rhythmic nuances unique to jazz.

From the first days of recorded jazz there had been attempts to combine it with classical music. In the twenties, Bix Beiderbecke and others had expressed admiration for the work of Ravel, Debussy and Delius. In the thirties, Artie Shaw had experimented with the use of a string quartet. At around the same time, Benny Goodman had begun a courtship with classical music that was to endure until he died in 1986. With Leonard Bernstein at the piano, Goodman had premiered Poulenc’s Clarinet Sonata in 1963. Goodman’s efforts would result in a profusion of commissioned works, from Malcolm Arnold, Bela Bartok, Aaron Copland, Morton Gould, Paul Hindemith and others. The Woody Herman band gave the first performance of Igor Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto in 1945. Duke Ellington and John Lewis utilized classical techniques in their jazz writing during the 1940s. Beginning in the 1950s, there were many such cross-references. Numerous jazz musicians cite classical music as an important part of their listening. Duke Ellington started with classical music. When interviewed by the influential Belgian critic Robert Goffin, in 1946, (Goffin, R., Jazz, From Congo to Swing, 1946, p. 263) he said, “I’d take Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe; Delius’ In a Summer Garden; Debussy’s La Mer and Afternoon of a Faun; and the Planets Suite [Holst]…” The connections have been there all along.
The expression Third Stream was coined by the historian Gunther Schuller, in an address at Brandeis University, in Boston, MA, in 1957. It was originally used to describe a style that fused basic elements of jazz and Western art music. In many jazz histories you will not see Third Stream mentioned. Schuller himself admits (‘Third Stream’, The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 1991, p.1199) that the movement has “attracted much controversy and has often erroneously been allied with the symphonic jazz movement of the 1920s.” However, the significant difference is that the symphonic jazz movement first emerged in the 1920s, before Third Stream jazz was identified and defined. Although it displayed an awareness of American song and dance, symphonic jazz lacked the crucial element of improvisation. In an exploration of the influence of classical music on jazz, third stream jazz signals the reappearance of the earlier effort, under the name of symphonic jazz, to change the direction of jazz music through increasing influence of Western European classical music. With his documentation of the first appearance of the term (N. Slonimsky, Music Since 1900, 4th ed., 1971, p.1497) Slonimsky provides the following definition: “If the first stream is classical and the second stream is jazz, Third Stream is their Hegelian synthesis, which unites and reconciles the classical thesis with the popular antithesis.” Examples of third stream thinking came from Gil Evans, Stan Kenton, George Russell and Gunther Schuller.

In the 1950s many jazz musicians were studying classical composers from Bach to Bartok in an effort to grow musically. Classical musicians were listening more seriously to jazz and taking a professional interest in it. The ideological and technical barriers between jazz and classical music were beginning to break down. The presence of musicians who were comfortable and capable in both jazz and classical styles was very important to the development of third stream music. It was the appearance of musicians who could bring together improvisational skills and the sense of timing found in jazz performance and the disciplined requirements of Western European fine-art music that differentiated the third-stream movement from earlier attempts – such as the symphonic jazz efforts of Paul Whiteman - to fuse the two idioms. Because of the emphasis placed on the composed element of third stream music, many of the early experiments lacked the quality of spontaneity and the rhythmic flexibility that was so much a part of the jazz tradition. The initial discovery of jazz by European and American fine-art composers in the twenties resulted in superficial borrowings from jazz in an otherwise European context. These efforts were restricted by the limited knowledge and understanding of jazz on the part of composers and by the absence of performers who could meet the demands of playing in both styles. The role of improvisation was nonexistent. The main differences between third stream music in the 1950s and ’60s and previous efforts to westernize jazz were that third stream music began to include improvisation and we now began to see both classical music and jazz coming together on an equal basis, with jazz adopting elements of classical music and the latter adopting harmonic and rhythmic elements of jazz as well.

Third stream is actually a jazz term that describes the use of classical music models in jazz music rather than an assimilation of jazz elements into the classical model. Musical forms employed in Third stream music include the fugue, canon, and theme and variations, borrowed from classical music. Third stream jazz puts less importance on rhythm and more focus on harmonic and melodic development, and for that reason some hold the view that third stream music is not jazz. Yet another approach to third stream music is the actual use of classically composed music in a larger jazz work or the complete statement of a classical work with jazz interpretation. The Swingle Singers used many Bach pieces, and Hubert Laws recorded Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”. Although third stream jazz was not a strong force after the 1960s, classical music continued to interact with jazz as the avant-garde school of jazz emerged. Other applications of third stream techniques are seen in the use of the “jazz suite” by artists who did not necessarily want to be associated with the third stream movement. Third stream music has been written and performed to this day by artists such as Charlie Haden, Carla Bley, Randy Weston and Melba Liston. A wider definition, as proposed by Schuller, might include fusion and world music. It could be argued that since it is often impossible to classify certain music as jazz, classical, popular or ethnic, proof exists that the third stream effort to fuse these kinds of music has been at least somewhat successful.
While third stream music developed and showed increasing influence by Western art-music, a new subgenre of bebop called hard bop emerged. Hard bop, as its name implies, is a development of bop. They come from similar influences, and to those unfamiliar with jazz they sound alike. Also known as soul jazz and funky jazz, hard bop appeared around 1954, on the heels of the institutionalization of the cool style. Its proponents were mainly concerned with reaffirming the features of bop that were cast aside or minimized by the promoters of the cool style, features that can be summarized as the musical “blackness” of jazz. Cool jazz was associated with white Californian musicians, though not exclusively so. Hard bop was more typically played by musician from Detroit, Philadelphia and the East Coast, and it used traditional African American folk elements of gospel and blues music. Hard bop was typically performed in small combos, usually with more than one front line instrument, the musicians playing arrangements with organized introductions and codas. The tenor saxophone was featured heavily. Pianist Horace Silver was an important figure in hard bop, leading a series of quintets with trumpet and tenor saxophone front line. Many of his compositions are examples of the breaking away from the bop practice of using chord progressions from standards. Hard bop favoured a more powerful instrumental tone, simpler arrangements with little counterpoint, and a more driving solo style. Rhythmic density was typical of hard bop, which was both close to the black popular tradition and eventually influenced by a number of musical influences (Asian, Caribbean, French impressionist). Heavier use of the minor mode, strong rhythmic patterning, slower tempos, and blues & gospel-influenced phrasing and compositions were all characteristic of hard bop as it emerged in the mid-fifties. As practiced by black jazz artists, hard bop represented a return to basics, a return to the emotional content of earlier jazz, and a disregard for the “European” mannerisms of the rival style. It was strongly influenced by the “gospel” music of black Protestants and its rhythm & blues counterpart in entertainment music. The “gospel” sound was achieved by the frequent use of open fourths and fifths, the presence of the IV – I cadence and repetitive melodic units (recalling the riff). Off-beat accentuation was the characteristic rhythmic style trait. Hard bop jazz artists used complex polyrhythmic structures and manipulated rhythmic details in ways that were unknown to any earlier period in the history of jazz.

In the thirties it could be argued that jazz and urban black pop music were one and the same. It was only in the late forties with the arrival of bebop that the two categories began to diverge more radically. In the early fifties people were asking what direction jazz should take. Bebop, which had begun as a promise of freedom, had turned into something of a straightjacket, an increasingly specific form of expression. R & B might be a source of new ideas, but it was too limited to satisfy jazz musicians as a regular context. Gradually the outlines of a new style – hard bop - began to emerge in the music of trumpeter Clifford Brown, saxophonist Sonny Rollins, pianist Horace Silver, drummer Art Blakey, Benny Golson, and the Cannonball Adderley Quintet. Other prominent players in the style included Sonny Rollins, Stanley Turrentine, Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter and Yusef Lateef on tenor sax; Kenny Dorham, Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard on trumpet. While musicians like Brown, Silver, and Blakey were all accused of playing “simplified” versions of bebop, each of them found a personal voice by taking what had been done in the late ‘40s and mixing it with more popular elements. As a result, jazz regained a measure of acceptance in black neighbourhoods and renewed its connection with dance inspiring rhythms. Hard bop also allowed for the expression of a set of emotions that in general had been little explored in jazz. These new dimensions included defiance and bitter sarcasm. Hard bop was a fusion of black pop culture’s self affirming qualities and intense physicality with “art” of the most demanding kind.

Interestingly, hard bop was bitterly attacked by many jazz critics at the height of its popularity. Social elements surrounding both the influence of western European music on third stream jazz and the conscious effort by some jazz musicians to move away from those influences and toward hard bop and its African American roots cannot be ignored in the exploration of these subjects. In many cases the music critics - arguably operating under a Western European musical value system - largely praised third stream music for its refinement and “respectable” nature. These same critics simultaneously denounced hard bop, free jazz, and any other kinds of music where African Americans could be seen to be politicizing their music, making a determined effort to reintroduce more traditional African elements of music, or reaffirm their African American heritage through the introduction of gospel & blues elements to jazz.

The overall failure of the third stream concept to engage the interest of more than a small number of major jazz soloists also suggests the possibility of an underlying incompatibility between jazz improvisation and organized classical music. Considering these differences it seems probable that jazz and classical music will continue for the most part to travel on related but independent stylistic paths. Jazz music and all of its subgenres would not exist today if it wasn’t for the defining events and processes which it has experienced throughout its history. In the preceding paragraphs this paper has explored a small segment of the history of this diverse and hugely important form of music. This paper has focussed on both the continuing influence of Western European art-music on jazz and the specific point in time – the late ‘50s – at which jazz music split into the two distinct main genres of hard bop and third stream music. While one sub-genre could be said to have a more obvious association with classical music, both styles are bound by certain confines. Nearly all jazz is influenced to some degree by classical music, if only because it is normally organized according to the rules of functional tonality.

Annotated Bibliography
The Enjoyment of Music 10th ed; K. Forney & J. Machlis; Norton & Co.; pg 562, 564
- Providing information on the subjects of hard bop and third stream jazz.

Hard Bop; D Rosenthal; Oxford Press; pg 25-40, 117-131
- Information on the origins and elements of hard bop.

Jazz In The ‘60’s; M. Budds, U of Iowa Press; pg 11, 71-79.
- A brief summary of hard bop and an exploration of the influence of classical music on jazz in the form of third stream jazz.

Encyclopedia Britannica Online
- Paragraph from an article by Gunther Schuller exploring the reasons behind the mixing of jazz and classical music.

A Concise History of Jazz; J. Brown; MelBay; pg 108, 127-129
- The roots of Hard Bop and other related information.

Jazz Issues – A Critical History; D, Megill & P. Tanner; WCB Brown & Benchmark; pg 78, 81, etc
- Exploration of the fusion of jazz and classical music in the ‘50’s.

Blowin’ Hot and Cool; J. Gennari; U of Chicago Press; pg218, 219, 224, 225, 252-255, 318, 319
- social elements surrounding both the influence of western European music on jazz (third stream) and the conscious effort by some jazz musicians to move away from those influences and toward African American roots (hard bop).

Jazz – A History of America’s Music, 1st ed; G. Ward & K. Burns; Alfred A Knopf; pg 99, 100
- Details about the earliest efforts to “Westernize” jazz by Paul Whiteman.

The Oxford Companion to Jazz; B. Kirchner; Oxford U Press; pg 346-356
- A history of the mixing of African American and Western European music throughout the 20th century.


Cameron W said...

Thanks for the comment!

Dylan Ledford said...

Thank you for the posted article. I am writing a paper on the differences between classical and jazz. Before, I hadn't even known about third stream music and symphonic jazz. This is a helpful article for writing a paper on compare contrast and using APA references.


Dylan J. Ledford
Like Magic music

Jones Morris said...

We don’t believe in being snobby about music either. Our music reviews cover all genres, from soul to jazz, hip hop to ska, easy listening to thrash metal and everything in between. All eras are covered too. Music made in the 1950’s is still as valid as today’s latest release if it sounds good. rock music blogs

grant elliot said...

But what happens when it goes too far? This issue arose when Apple Music was launched. Apple Music said that unlimited streaming would be $9.99 a month and the first 90 days would be free, in a similar set up to other companies such as Spotify. Leaks4Ever